Women in labor may be able to safely consume a protein shake instead of just ice chips, according to a study presented Oct. 12 at the Annual Meeting of the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) in San Francisco.
Researchers found that women who drank a protein drink during labor had “higher satisfaction rates,” and experienced no more nausea or vomiting than mothers who were given ice chips, reported an ASA news release.
“Giving birth is a tremendous stress on both mother and baby,” said the study’s senior author, Manuel C. Vellejo, MD, DMD, professor and chair of the department of anesthesiology at the West Virginia University of School of Medicine in Morgantown, V.W., in the news release.
“Anything we can do to increase patient satisfaction during labor without increasing adverse events is a major positive. Physicians should feel comfortable replacing ice chips or water with a high-protein supplement,” added Vellejo.
The practice of restricting food and liquids during childbirth goes back more than 50 years when women often gave birth under a general anesthesia. Because of the potentially fatal risk of aspirating food or drink into the lungs while under a general anesthesia, women in labor were generally restricted in their food and liquid intake.
Improved anesthesia methods such as epidurals – a regional anesthetic that blocks pain in certain areas of the body – have made general anesthesia during delivery rarer. The use of ice chips or water, however, has remained and leaves some women hungry and dehydrated, or with low blood sugar.
In the study, 150 women who underwent epidural anesthesia were split into two groups. One group received 160-calorie protein shake in addition to ice chips and water. The other group received ice chips and water only.
A secondary aim of the investigation was to evaluate stomach emptying rates in the women who had protein shakes and those who did not. Ultrasound was used to determine emptying rates.
The study found no difference in the incidence of nausea and vomiting between the two groups. It also found comparable stomach emptying rates. Patient satisfaction scores, however, were higher in the protein-shake group.
“We’ve found that not being able to eat or have any type of sustenance during labor and delivery is tough on the mom, who can labor a long time. And labor is like an aerobic exercise. By taking in extra calories, it helps ease the feeling of starvation and moms can feel better,” Vellejo told HealthDay.
“In patients who are otherwise healthy, we should take a more liberal policy on what women can have during labor. A clear liquid diet or a protein shake should be OK,” said Vellejo.